Hydrological performance of extensive green roofs in response to different rain events in a subtropical monsoon climate

  • Haiwei Yin
  • Fanhua KongEmail author
  • Iryna Dronova
Original Paper


Rapid urbanization transforms permeable land into developed areas with predominantly impervious surfaces, significantly increasing stormwater runoff and exacerbating the risk of pluvial flooding. Green roofs provide an attractive strategy for increasing surface permeability by mimicking pre-development hydrologic functions and mitigating flood risks in compact cities. However, the potential of this strategy has not been rigorously assessed, despite advances in global stormwater management. This is mainly due to insufficient scientific knowledge of hydrologic performance and a lack of experimental studies of rainwater-harvesting capacity under specific climatic conditions. This study evaluated the hydrologic performance of a real-scale extensive green roof (EGR) constructed in a subtropical monsoon climate in Nanjing, China. Overall, the EGR showed considerable ability to retain rainfall (mean retention ~ 60%, accumulated retention ~ 30%), although retention performance varied from 11% to 100% depending on the rainfall event considered, and decreased with increasing rainfall. Event-based rainfall–runoff comparisons demonstrated that the EGR retained rainwater efficiently during the early stages of a rainfall event and significantly attenuated peak runoff flows compared to bare roofs. Statistical analysis showed that total rainfall depth, rainfall duration, and substrate layer moisture influenced the overall retention most strongly, but also the percentage retention and runoff depth, highlighting the impact of substrate properties in addition to rainfall characteristics on EGR hydrologic performance. These findings provide new knowledge of and important insights into the hydrological performance of green roofs in subtropical monsoon climates, which could be used to guide EGR construction to increase landscape permeability, mitigate the risk of pluvial flooding, and enhance the climatic resilience of urban regions.


Extensive green roof Sponge city Subtropical monsoon climate Experimental analysis Hydrologic performance Nanjing 



Total rainfall depth


Rain duration


Mean rainfall intensity


Peak rainfall intensity


Return period


Overall retention


Percent retention (percentage of the total rainfall that did not run off the roof)


Accumulated retention as a percentage of the total rainfall for all selected rainfall events


Onset delay (the time difference between the start of rainfall and the start of discharge)


Peak reduction


Peak runoff delay


Concentration time


Total runoff depth


Discharge duration


Solar radiation accumulated between the start and end of rainfall


Substrate layer moisture before the start of rainfall


Duration of the antecedent dry weather period



The research was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC0505800), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 51878328, 31670470, 51478217) and the sponsorship of Jiangsu Oversea Research and Training Program for University Prominent Young and Middle-aged Teachers and Presidents. The authors thank Hailong Xu, Junsheng Li, Jiayu Chen, and all other members who helped to conduct the field surveys.


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Copyright information

© International Consortium of Landscape and Ecological Engineering and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Architecture and Urban PlanningNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.International Institute for Earth System Science (ESSI), Nanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental PlanningUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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